Nielsen addition of DVR ratings ups the upfront ante

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The impact of A.C. Nielsen adding time-shifted ratings remains a major pre-upfront tit-for-tat between the media buyers and TV networks. One of the latest worries is it could create a perceived drop in TV-advertising effectiveness, a notion some networks and buyers hope to disprove through the engagement-based upfront deals.

"DVR ratings are something that could definitely polarize the way people think about television," said Lyle Schwartz, managing partner-research and marketplace analysis at Mediaedge:cia.

Nielsen began adding DVR households to its sample Dec. 26. While it currently only has 161 DVR homes in the 10,000 sample, it expects to continue adding DVR households until the penetration of its sample matches that of the general population, a moving target that's currently at about 7%.

Mr. Schwartz envisions a scenario that goes something like this: Injecting time-shifted viewing into Nielsen's sample will pump up total ratings points-essentially increasing the supply of impressions in the marketplace. Yet the number of people actually seeing commercials is unlikely to increase much, and, in fact, could decline, thanks to DVR users' propensity for zapping through ads. So if the number of viewers to a program increases but they're not watching the commercial and sales don't increase, then the perceived ROI diminishes.

"Even though this is a methodological change, if the ROI for TV appears to go down, there are plenty of other media out there that will discuss this with advertisers and convince them to move money out of the medium," he said.

Added Andy Donchin, director-national broadcast, Carat: "I still believe that the 30-second spot on Court TV or whatever network can still move product and build brands. Hopefully what we're doing will help us substantiate that."

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